A football-mad teenager from Denny had her dreams come true thanks to the generosity of a Premier League star and his girlfriend.
Caitlan Evans, who has non-verbal autism, was treated to free tickets and the chance to meet her heroes at last week’s dramatic Crystal Palace v Liverpool match – courtesy of Palace midfielder Joe Ledley and his partner Ruby May Ridgeway.
The 16-year-old fell in love with Welsh soccer star Joe when he played for her beloved Celtic, and was so devastated when he was sold to the south London club in January that she did not speak for a week.
Her family decided to try and cheer the St Modan’s High pupil up by arranging a trip to see Ledley in action for his new club at Selhurt Park.
Sister Erinn sent Ridgeway a message on social networking website Twitter in the hope that a meeting with Caitlan and her hero could perhaps be arranged.
But the family were stunned when the kind couple replied saying that they would provide free tickets to the game against Premier League title contenders Liverpool, passes to the exclusive player’s lounge and even offered to help find them accommodation in London.
Mum Elayne said: “Joe was a total gentleman. He spent time with Caitlan and was genuinely interested in speaking to her, even though she couldn’t reply back as she has selective mutism.
“Caitlan saw Joe as he was arriving for the game, and he knew straight away who she was and came over to speak to her. She had made Joe a scrapbook and gave him, Ruby and their daughter presents which she bought herself.
“Joe gave her a signed top and a pair of his football boots.”
The game turned out to be a thrilling contest that finished 3-3.
The Palace star tweeted after the game: “Also a big thank you to @caitlan_1888 for the presents and for coming down to watch the game. I hope you have a safe journey home.
“You’re always welcome to come back. We will happily have you again.”
Elayne explained that the trip had been a wonderful experience for Caitlan.
She said: “Her brother Aydan, sisters Jodie and Erinn and myself are eternally grateful to Joe and Ruby for the joy they’ve brought to her. They are a genuine couple and we wish them every happiness and success.
“Caitlan has not had the easiest time growing up with autism and she has had to put up with both verbal and physical bullying.
“She now has a bucket list of players she wants to meet.”